The shift in power from Brazil’s former president Jair Bolsonaro to Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva is exactly what Brazil needs
“On this historic October 30, the majority of Brazilians made it clear that they want more, and not less democracy. That they want more, and not less social inclusion. That they want more, and not less opportunities for all.” A cheer swept through thousands of eager Brazilians as their newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva (Lula), gave a celebratory speech after narrowly beating Brazil’s incumbent President Jair Bolsonaro.
Brazil’s newly elected president, Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva, stands in front of a crowd of supportive Brazilians. Art courtesy of Yahaira Barrero.
This is not the first time Lula has been elected as Brazil’s president. Lula first took office on January 1, 2003, and was considered one of the most popular politicians in the history of Brazil. From humble beginnings as a metalworker and son of illiterate farm workers, Lula relates to the struggles of the general public, unlike other privileged politicians. For this reason, he gained tremendous support during his first presidency. However, in April 2018, he faced corruption charges and was imprisoned due to a nationwide scandal of Brazilian government officials, known as Lava Jato (“Car Wash”).
This government-wide scandal left the Brazilian people feeling like their government wasn't working. Many felt that the quality of their lives was not improving, leading to a wide-spread mood in 2018 of “out with the old and in with the new.” Amidst the chaos of it all, rose Brazil’s Messiah – Jair Bolsonaro. Bolsonaro rode the wave of government mistrust and promised to shake up the system, earning trust as he claimed to be uninvolved in the corruption scheme.
With a military background and strict policy proposals, Bolsonaro many looked to Bolsonaro as a leader to enact order and strengthen the nation’s government. However, many Brazilians drastically underestimated Bolsonaro’s principles. When he was elected into office in 2019, Bolsnaro brought in one of the most right wing administrations Brazil had seen, creating a neo-authoritarian regime that challenged the democracy of the nation.
Brazil needed Lula to regain control of the country and reinstitute normalcy. Bolsonaro's right wing politics had grown so extreme that during the end of his run, he began planning a coup in hopes of running Brazil as a stratocracy. The tumultuous state of the Brazilian government made this election critical, and the outcome gave the people what they needed. Now is exactly the perfect time for Lula to be in power.
Impact on the environment
During Bolsonaro’s regime, he passed countless legislations which exploited the materials from and deforested the Amazon rainforest. After less than four years, Bolsonaro’s presidency destroyed nearly two billion trees and 8.4 million acres of the “lungs of our world.” Luckily, Lula is notorious for funding law enforcement and government agencies that protect the Amazon, such as Ibama.
During Lula’s previous presidency, he was able to significantly reduce deforestation in the Amazon. For his upcoming presidency, he plans to eliminate deforestation entirely. “In our government, we were able to reduce deforestation in the Amazon by 80 percent. Now, let’s fight for zero deforestation,” Lula wrote on Twitter.
The impact of Lula’s plans to nurture the Amazon will reach far beyond Brazil’s border. As the largest rainforest in the world, the Amazon is a critical asset to our planet’s water and carbon cycles. By restoring the health of this rainforest, Brazil will help catalyze improvements related to Earth’s net greenhouse gas emissions and global warming.
A shift in foreign and social policies
One of Lula’s main objectives during his presidency is to begin undoing complications with Bolsonaro’s foreign and domestic policy. Not only did Bolsonaro order the deforestation of a vast area of the Amazon, but he also dramatically shifted Brazil’s foreign policy by primarily building alliances with conservative leaders while maintaining distanced social and economic relationships with many other regions of the world.
To begin, Bolsonaro distanced Brazil from most of Latin America and the Caribbean. Additionally, as a result of Bolsonaro’s harmful environmental policies, tensions with the European Union grew. On the contrary, he brought Brazil into closer alignment with the United States under the Trump administration. Bolsonaro and his followers looked up to the United States and its ideologies with great fondness, and hence tried to emulate some of their militaristic and economic policies.
In addition to alliancing with conservative leaders, Bolsonaro weakened Brazil’s economic status. During his time in office, Brazil faced rising inflation, high interest rates and low growth in the economy. Many of these economic declines resulted due to Bolsonaro’s failed privatization and tax cut policies.
While the economy suffered, police violence increased. Since Bolsonaro took office in 2018, he passed legislation to enforce police across the nation, especially in the favelas (slums). This enactment granted strong legal immunities to the Brazilian police and provided them much more power and freedom. Consequently, in 2021, over 6,000 civilians were killed by police officers in Brazil, most of which were black and brown men from the favelas.
Despite Brazil’s troubled past four years, there is a brighter future since Lula stands on the opposite side of Bolsonaro’s inhumane social policies. In Lula’s first presidency, he created social reform programs that opposed the military and policiary regime. Coming from humble beginnings, he focused a lot on bringing people out of poverty by implementing welfare initiatives. Lula plans to continue supporting these policies in his upcoming presidency.
From a global perspective, Lula already has tremendous support world-wide from different union-leaders and democratic countries. His last presidency’s foregin policy is often described as “tall and active,” as just in a few years, Brazil launched 35 new embassies and new cooperation initiatives with countries around the world.
What to expect
Simply put, Bolsonaro failed Brazil. With a struggling economy, dying Amazon and severe police brutality, Brazil fell to an all time low. On the contrary, we have already seen the outstanding success of Lula’s time in office in Brazil when he conquered socioeconomic and climate change issues.
Even while the differences in qualifications are clear between these two presidents, Lula only won the past election by a narrow vote of 50.9% - 49.1%. Bolsonaro still has wide-spread support in Brazil, mainly concentrated in white, wealthy individuals. Therefore, Lula will likely encounter obstacles passing his legislation, as multiple members of Brazil’s congress do not openly support him.
Nonetheless, Lula will bring great change to Brazil. It’s exactly what the nation needs at this point in time. The past few years in Brazil with Bolsonaro in charge have been catastrophic. It’s about time that Lula is here to make a change.
Alex Feingold-Black. Hey! I'm Alex [he/him] and I'm the Feature Editor and External Manager for SCO. Outside of school you can find me running laps around a track and eating from Potbelly's Sandwich Shop. More »